#TinyTriumphs

TinyTriumphEA couple of weeks ago, I posted this photo and narrative to Our Stable Table’s Facebook and Instagram pages.  I was thoroughly surprised at how far the post went, who was touched by it, and the outpouring of joy, celebration, tears, empathy, and love that came our way.

During the first few months of E’s life, he was drugged heavily to keep seizures at bay.  Once he weaned from the medicine and the effects wore off, he wanted very little to do with being close to me.  He rejected the boob, he rejected mommy’s comfort unless I was the only person available to hold and soothe him. My efforts to console, rock, and hold him close were met with terrified eyes, cries of protest an arching back, or hyperactivity. Yes, it was heartbreaking for me.  But I also fully understood the profound trauma he had experienced, and even though I ached to be his safe place, I knew I wasn’t.  I accepted it, supported him in his choice, and tried my hardest not to take it personally.

E has always been affectionate and sweet, generous with kisses and cuddles (as long as we are standing or sitting upright), and loves his mama. I see it in his eyes, in his playful actions. We laugh and joke and play with ease. But E has never been able to just let go and relax with me.  And he definitely hasn’t been able to sleep next to me.

If I’m completely vulnerable here, I couldn’t relax with him either.  E stopped breathing at my breast.  I blew air into his lungs to keep him alive.  For many days, I didn’t know if he would live or die.  For many months after that, E and I did not trust each other.  E didn’t trust my milk, my breast, my body.  I didn’t trust that E would stay, that he would keep breathing, keep overcoming.

Our trust was broken.

That moment, us cuddling and E sleeping on the couch?  That moment was our healing. The PTSD losing it’s iron-like hold on our hearts.  Our final defenses crumbling down. Both of us giving up the idea of control or hyper-vigilance and relaxing into what our bond is now.  It is unbearably sweet, tenuous, and victorious. It is brand new.

I can trust my son to stay and he can trust me to keep him safe.

I shared our couch cuddle with the Internet because these moments, the small victories that signify huge change and growth, often go unnoticed by us.  Unmarked.  Undocumented.  Unseen by others.  In the midst of heartbreak and fear, exhaustion and anxiety, these are the moments that keep me going.  It fuels me to keep fighting to restore what we have lost as a family, and advocate for the families out there who experience adversity that comes with life-altering circumstances.

So, I have a request: I want your moments. I want your #tinytriumphs.  I want your pictures, the small things that equal big progress and healing in your life and in your family.  I want to share these with other families who often feel hopeless and helpless (like my husband and I often do), because we need each other.  We need to be reminded of victory, even when it stings our exposed wounds.  This is how we move forward, even when the progress is painfully slow.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Send us your picture with a narrative of what is significant about that moment, around 100-300 words.  Fewer words are okay, too.

Ways to submit your #tinytriumphs:

  1. Email me.  Carrie at ourstabletable dot com.
  2. Tag OST on FB or IG, and be sure to change the settings to “Public” if you want us to share.
  3. Private message OST, and we will share it publicly.
  4. Include the #tinytriumphs in the post.

I can’t promise we will be able to share all of the submissions, but we will certainly try.  Because we need this.

We grow together, we mourn together, we celebrate together.  Everyone deserves a seat at the table, and your moments matter here.

Salted Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies {Grain-Free}

So, call me crazy, but I don’t feel like chocolate chunk cookies really need much explanation.  Because chocolate.

These are some of my faves, though.  They are chewy, salty, sweet, and gluten-free.  How awesome is that?

I typically make these for my mom, who has a little condition called diabetes.

Mom
She’s a total cutie.

Since Mother’s Day is coming up, these are a perfect way to share the love with my mom and still respect her limitations. I want her to be around to see my kiddo graduate from high school in approximately 16 years, so I’m committed to supporting her in any way I can.  This includes making enjoyable food she can eat.  And as a mother, I would love to have someone make these for me (I’m looking at you , dear husband).

ChewyChocolateChipCookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup blanched almond meal
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar, or erythritol for a low-glycemic option
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz  85% cacao dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • 1 tsp kosher-style sea salt or fleur de sal
  • a tiny dash of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine almond meal, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, then stir.
  2. Add eggs, oil,  vinegar, and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly with almond meal mixture.
  3. Add chocolate chunks.
  4. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spoon batter (which will be slightly runny) into half-dollar drops.  This will spread quite a bit during baking so be sure to leave plenty of space between cookies.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Because of the almond meal, they will brown on the top slightly more than traditional cookies.  It’s okay.  :)
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  They will have delicately crisp edges and soft centers before you store them, then they are all soft after that.

Consume within 3-4 days, otherwise they’ll get stale.  But good luck with lasting that long.  These are HIGHLY addictive!

Be sure to love your moms this week, and if this is a difficult holiday for you, be sure to take good care of yourself.

Yo Mama,
Carrie

Kale Waldorf Salad

 This is my Gram.
YoungGram

She was a total fox, right?

She was full of snap and sparkle.  She had a sharp tongue and quick wit.  She lived a wild life before leaving this world at the ripe age of 91. In her younger years, she smooched plenty of cute boys, danced until dawn with a young Merv Griffin, Aaron Spelling, and Errol Flynn in San Francisco during WWII. She survived a near fatal car accident that resulted in a broken back, and a million other crazy things that would amaze you.  In her later years, Gram kicked a life-long addiction to alcohol, became the belle of her church singles group when she was in her 70’s after my grandfather passed away, and loved riding on the back of her church friends’ motorcycles in her leather Harley vest and boots. She was a complicated, outspoken, generous and amazing lady. I loved Gram then, and I love her still, brambles and all.

Gram was a devoted veggie lover. I’ve actually never seen anyone eat more vegetables without juicing them.  She ate a big salad for lunch every single day, and always ate salad at dinner, too.  And then she ate more veggies on the side.  She obsessed over vegetables, and salads in particular.  I’m certain her consumption of vegetables will be remembered for decades to come.

A few years ago, I found myself preparing a meal for most of my extended family for a small reception after Gram’s memorial service.  And since salad was her very favorite food group, I had to honor her, right?

Since 90% of the prep had to be done the night before, I needed to find something that could withstand overnight storage.  I needed to pull it out of the fridge and get it on the table in 10 minutes.  It also had to be something that I could eat and that my family would want to eat.  (Sometimes, we don’t always like the same things.  Shocking, I know.)

Kale definitely fit the bill. I knew that my mom would really like it, since she is my Gram’s daughter.  I knew my brother would probably try it, even though he really dislikes kale, just because he trusts my cooking.  I also have a previous track record of helping him overcome aversions to certain foods, like brussels sprouts.  My dad is ridiculously easy to please.  My cousin and his wife are mostly vegetarian, and are fairly food-adventurous.  As for the rest of the family, they would either try it to be nice, or discreetly move on to the chicken salad and veggie tray.

But all those reasons aside, I knew Gram would love this dish and enjoy every bite. I hummed her favorite 40’s songs while I prepped, and smiled when I served it in her favorite wooden salad bowl.

waldorf

Ingredients:

2 bunches of kale, de-stemmed and cut into ribbons

2 cruncy apples, sliced into little quarter-moon pieces (I prefer honey crisp or pink lady)

1/2 cup dried unsweetened blueberries or currants

1/2 cup pine nuts

3 Tbsp (heaping) stone ground mustard

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp basalmic vinegar

1/2 small lemon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a VERY LARGE BOWL, place your prepared kale, apples, mustard, vinegars, mustard and lemon juice then mix well.
  2. Add dried blueberries, pine nuts and nutmeg
  3. Mix everything together using your hands and gently squeeze until kale starts to reduce slightly in volume.
  4. Taste it.  What does it need?  Pepper?  More nutmeg?  More baslamic vinegar?  Add it.
  5. Transfer to a sealed container and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Making food that connects me to the people I love long after they’ve passed is a way for me to actively keep who they were to me alive and tangible, even through a dish as simple as a salad.  The power of food is incredible.  Thank you for letting me share it with you.

CarrieGram

Veggie Lover for Life,
Carrie

 

The Joy of Detoxing…and Fried Chicken

Can we talk about fried chicken for a hot second? I know this post is about detoxing and other super fun stuff , but I want to talk about fried chicken first.

Here’s the deal. I LOVE FRIED CHICKEN.

Not just regular fried chicken, but a Certain Southern Chain Restaurant’s fried  chicken. It was my first real job at the tender age of 15. I washed dishes, prepped the chicken, made coleslaw by the gallon using vats of industrial mayonnaise (gross), and rung up combo meals for mall patrons, all with a “How may I serve you?” and a smile. (Yeah, that was weird.)

My second brother, who happens to be a pretty funny guy and chicken-lover himself, wrote a song about me and it went like this:

ChristianPoultryGirl
This is my actual senior photo from 1997. Also, making chicken wasn’t really that fun.

Needless to say, I’ve changed quite a bit since my teens, but this song lives on in iconic mid-90’s jingle glory, and bunch of illiterate cows took my job as A Certain Southern Chain Restaurant’s mascot.

I continued eating A Certain Southern Chain Restaurant’s fried chicken long after I quit my job at the tender age of 16, and that same chicken fueled me well into my 30’s. When we visit family in Texas, I still try to eat it…but then I feel awful because it’s full of all kinds of things that don’t agree with my body. Like MSG and wheat. Super duper SAD FACE.

I lost a bunch of weight several years ago while we lived in Texas. You can read about it here, but that’s not the point of this story. I experienced some success, lost several lbs and was feeling fantastically good. And I mean good like my energy was returning and my hormones were evening out and I was starting to remember what it felt like to live without chronic inflammation. I was within spitting distance of the weight range where I felt (feel) strong, and I could begin thinking about slipping into my favorite little black dress that had been collecting several years’ worth of dust in the back of my closet.

So, I was on my way to work one morning, during a phase when I was eating from a very specific menu but feeling basically bionic , and I passed A Certain Southern Chain Restaurant’s fried chicken. I passed this particular location twice a day on my commute to work, and before I started my detox, I ate there a couple of times a week. But on this day, with my weight dropping and my hormones balancing and my energy vibing, ALL I WANTED WAS A DAMN CHICKEN BISCUIT.

My palms actually started sweating. I could taste the buttery, fluffy biscuit surrounding the perfectly pressure-cooked, deep-fried chicken and crispy tater tots posing as hashbrowns. My pulse raced. I envisioned myself taking the exit, pulling up to that drive-thru and eating the crap out of that deep fried goodness. The thought of the instant, flavor-filled. orgasmic mouth joy was so powerful, I took my foot off the gas pedal.

And then I took a mental pause.

I could eat a chicken biscuit. I would enjoy the hell out of it. I could give myself permission to veer from my restricted menu for one meal and then get right back on track. But there was a bigger issue at hand for me.

That chicken biscuit represented something far more powerful than an indulgent meal or comfort food.

It represented joy.

This is the moment I realized how unhappy I had been for years. The only consistent joy I found was in food. Not in my friendships, not in my marriage, not in my community, not in my career. Those all seemed complicated and often stressful, but food? Food was JOYFUL. It was simple. It was a happy escape with instant gratification.

I put my foot back on the gas pedal, and continued on my drive to work. With every mile I put between me and crispy chicken joy,  I became increasingly and acutely aware of how desperately I needed to find other joyful things. So, I started a list of things that brought me joy, in addition to food.

  • Adventures in Nature
  • Traveling
  • New Experiences
  • Reading
  • Dates with My Husband
  • Community
  • Hate-watching The Real Housewives of NYC
  • Creating Recipes
  • The Beach
  • The Mountains
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Yoga

Pretty fun list, right?

So, here’s The Thing. Finding joy in food was never the issue. Food being my only source of joy was, though. And this is why I love a good cleanse/detox/whateveryouwanttocallit. It gives me an opportunity to become present to my life, my food, my choices, my cycles of self-sabotage, my passion, and pushes me to do hard things and become stronger in areas that have zilch to do with eating. It also helps me reconnect to the joy of living, of really tasting and anticipating what’s is in front of me. And if I’m ever disconnected from those truths, if it becomes about deprivation and white-knuckling or a number on the scale, I stop. Because my mental and emotional health drive my physical health, and I will not sacrifice one for the other.

Every part of me matters.

There will be no Before and After pictures. Not here. The internet is full of those shots, and that’s not my style. I am not ashamed of how I look now, and I am proud of my body at any size. Anyway, PICTURES LIE. Just ask the creators of Photoshop and every celebrity ever.

There will be no How To Detox plans or tips, other than EAT REAL FOOD. And maybe avoid sugar, refined flour, too many salads, and cold foods (Yep, I’m looking at you, Juice Cleanse). Drink water and be gentle with yourself.  The end.

There will be an invitation, though. You’re welcome to rediscover what brings you joy as I reconnect with mine over the next 28ish days. I’m going to share my #platesofinspiration, both what I’m eating and other food I’m loving from around the internet, over on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll be posting my original recipes here, and if you click “subscribe” at the bottom of this post, we can keep track of each other, encourage each other, and share some great food along the way.

I still love chicken.  But these days, it looks more like this.
I still love chicken. But these days, chicken looks more like this.#platesofinspiration

And just so you know, if you need to stop and get a chicken biscuit, there’s NO SHAME IN THAT GAME. Because chicken.

Forever Buttering Buns,
Carrie

How To Fail At Life (And Still Be Okay)

There was a time, many years ago, when I had almost BOUNDLESS ENERGY. I had a glut of FREE TIME. I had DISPOSBLE INCOME.

I was WELL-RESTED.

This is totally how I look when I'm sleeping.
This is totally how I look when I’m sleeping.

It seems like that happened to another person in an ancient time.  Like, I might as well have been playing a character in Game of Thrones for the level of connection I feel towards my previous life in the present moment.

{Pro-Tip: It never pays to be a Stark.}

Some days, it feels like it’s all I can do to get the basic living stuff finished.

Laundry.

Dishes.

Bathing.

Eating.

Meal prep.

Bills.

The other things, like being an engaged and connected parent, or preparing for anything further than a day in advance feels HARD. And not just hard, but impossible. And may Baby Jesus help us if we get sick, or the car breaks down, or we have a family medical emergency. Because the water we were artfully treading rushes up around our heads and it is damn near impossible to pull ourselves back up.

icantometer

Where does all the magic energy come from for other people to gracefully navigate through life? Who have tidy cars and put their gym membership to good use and never have old, crusted spaghetti sauce on their shirts from dinner two nights ago? They even seem rested and fresh. How do they do it?!

Now, I’ve seen true hardship. I know this isn’t it. I’ve traveled to several continents, dozens of countries, and worked in some of the most marginalized and poverty-stricken areas of the world. I KNOW my life is easy. I can list all of the ways it glides so smoothly and its vibrant places of prosperity, because hello, we aren’t carrying contaminated drinking water four miles uphill to our homes…on our heads.

If these remarkable people can do all of these amazing feats every single day, why is it so effing hard to stay afloat?

Because more often than not, I feel like a failure.

  • I am failing those magical, successful people who don’t just stay afloat, they sail on a luxury cruise liner.
  • I am failing those women carrying their drinking water on their heads who work themselves to the bone, because their lives really are hardship and I’m a first world whiner.
  • I am failing my son because, as much as I want to, I cannot give him 100% of my uninterrupted attention and connection.
  • I am failing my partner because I’m a completely different woman than the one he married 8 years ago.
  • And finally, I am failing the House of Stark because everything that happens to them just seems too terrible and I can’t keep hoping they’ll win The Throne when they just keep losing. 

So.  There it is.  I have FAILED THE WORLD. And probably Baby Jesus, too.

And guess what?

It’s okay.

I don’t have to get it right.  In fact, it’s absurd to even think that I will get it right. So, here’s how I get through.

When I start to compare my fortune to someone else’s (talent, money, abundance of sleep, good looks, stamina, clean clothes, etc.), I tell myself it’s OKAY.  My life is amazeballs and nothing is easy all the time, even though some people are pros at making it look that way. Everyone has impossible places.

When I feel overwhelmed by my hardships, I tell myself it’s OKAY. Then I literally count my blessings, starting with the clean water that comes out of the tap by fairy magic, then move on to the solid roof over our heads and the abundant feast on our table. I say a prayer for those who struggle profoundly, and do what I can to support them in practical ways. Like buying fairly traded goods when I can, raising awareness, and volunteering with organizations I believe make a difference.

When I feel like a terrible mom because I didn’t read my kid a single book all day, or make him laugh hysterically, I tell myself it’s OKAY and commit to reading him a book the next day and chasing him around the house until we both laugh to the point of tears. Because it is impossible to be “on” all day long.  But it is possible to intentionally create concentrated moments of connection. It’s isn’t all or nothing here.

When I feel like I’m failing my partner because sometimes I barely resemble the woman he married, I tell myself it’s OKAY and remember that he is a completely different person now, too.  I love him deep. And he loves me deep, too. That’s what matters. And maybe we need to chase each other around the house (naked) and laugh until we cry, too.

And when I despair the Starks and boo the Lannisters and wonder if Winter will ever come, I tell myself to GET OVER IT because good grief, this is just a story. I can read the books if I want to know so badly.

So, to recap:

It’s all going to be okay.  You don’t have to BE okay, though.  And if life spins out of control and you can’t stop the crazy and you can’t seem to wrap your arms around it and NOTHING feels okay, remember these five things:

  1. Wine.
  2. Coffee.
  3. Chocolate.
  4. You are not alone.
  5. The impossible seasons don’t last forever. Just ask the Starks.

Love and Dirty Laundry,
Carrie